Prince George, B.C. – B.C. Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell will be heading the province’s largest trade mission ever to China next month.
Bell will be accompanied by the CEOs from Interfor, Canfor, West Fraser, and Conifex. A few others have yet to confirm their attendance. In addition, the Forests Minister says a couple of mayors, including Mackenzie mayor Stephanie Killam will be on the junket, as will United Steelworkers Local 1-424 President Frank Everitt. Bell says he feels the union representation is a positive step.
As of July, B.C. surpassed the 1.2-billion board foot mark for lumber shipments to China, compared to 816-million board feet for the same period last year. Bell says, “We’re hoping to advance the agenda towards the 4-billion board foot mark by 2011 — that will be challenging, we’re going to have to work hard to make it happen, but we’re certainly prepared to put the resources behind it necessary to accomplish that (goal).”
Past trade excursions have focused primarily on Beijing, Shanghai and similar-sized cities, but this year, the group will venture into some of the second-tier cities. As well, Bell says next month’s trip will be far more focused on building relationships with some of China’s largest developers. “We have a series of meetings set up with developers who build, literally, millions of units of new housing starts every year.”
Bell says there’s even some interest in B.C.’s Wood First Act. He says it’s early days yet, but one Chinese provincial government is interested in expanding the use of wood beyond residential construction to commercial projects. “That means things like parallam and glu-lam beams and different structural qualities of wood that are of much higher value and manufactured to a higher degree.” (click here, for earlier story on results of Wood policy here in B.C.
Right now, Bell says he’s told by companies doing the bulk of importing into China that about 90-percent of B.C. wood going into the country is being consumed and utilized there, the other 10-percent is re-manufactured into products like cabinets, doors and windows and shipped to Japan and the U.S.
The trade mission leaves on October 28th and will stay a little longer than usual, until November 8th.